Former athlete and now IAAF Elite coach Justice Dipeba – the reigning BNSC coach of the year and more importantly 400m sensation Isaac Makwala’s coach – chats with reporter OTHUSITSE TLHOBOGANG open up about his work as a coach. So far his record shows that he is making young athletes’ dreams come true. All he is striving for is to see one of his athletes getting a world class medal.
Q: When growing up which sport were you playing?
A: I played soccer but it was not for long as I then started doing serious athletics while I was at high school.
Q: What influenced your choice sport?
A: Soccer was every boy’s game during my time so that’s why I ended up playing it. But, eventually I ended up going to athletics by chance. It happened one afternoon in 1992 while I was watching an athletics team in training. They wanted someone to help them during a relay practice and I put my hand up. Then I ran against the fastest guy at school and I was able to beat him; that’s when the teachers started following me around asking me to join the team. It took me a long time to make the decision as I thought running was not my thing.
Q: As a player what were your highest achievements?
A: I qualified for the Olympics in 1996. I won a bronze medal at Africa senior Championships in 1996, reached the finals at the world University Games being the first Motswana to run 200m under 21seconds! During our time this was big!
Q: When did you retire as an athlete?
A: Well, I retired in 2002.
Q: When did you decide to become an athletics coach and what made you take this path?
A: I started my coaching right after my retirement in 2002. I did my IAAF level 1 coaching in 2003. This was pretty much because it is the sport that I enjoyed and I know a lot about it. I worked as a volunteer coach during my senior year at the university in the USA and my passion for the sport grew even higher during this time.
Q: What coaching qualification do you hold currently and do you have any intention of furthering?
A: At the moment I am an IAAF elite coach and will like to keep improving my coaching as you have noticed that even the athletes nowadays are running better than we were running during our time. So it will be always great to further my coaching knowledge.
Q: As a coach what has been your biggest achievement?
A: So far being able to coach an athlete to the higher ranks like Isaac Makwala has been a huge achievement for me.
Q: Which athletes did you coach that you are currently proud of in the athletics arena?
A: Isaac Makwala - African record holder, top 5 of all time best in 400m, one of the only four Africans to run 200m under 20s so far; Leaname Maotoanong- 2015 World University silver medallist in 400m, part of the 4x400m relay team that has qualified for Rio 2016; Pako Seribe - part of the 4x400m relay team that has qualified for Rio 2016; Sakarea Kamberuka -part of the 4x400m relay team that has qualified for Rio 2016, 5th Position World University Games 2015; Goitseone Seleka - part of the 4x400m women relay team that won a bronze medal at the Africa Senior Championships 2014; Christine Botlogetswe - part of the 4x400m women relay team that won a bronze medal at the Africa Senior Championships 2014;
Lydia Jele - part of the 4x400m women relay team that won a bronze medal at the Africa Senior Championships 2014; and Loungo Matlhaku- part of the 4x400m women relay team that won a bronze medal at the Africa Senior Championships 2014.
Q: As a coach what do you want to attain in the next five years?
A: I will be happy to see my athletes on the world podium, even just one of them it will be great.
Q: As local coaches what is the major challenge that you are mainly faced with?
A: The support is not enough, and it is a struggle as we end up spending from our pockets to keep it going.
Q: Athletics is one of the best performing sporting codes in the country. According to you, what is attributed to this performance?
A: We do have a lot of talent in this country and it shows that with a little bit of extra work we can produce some top athletes.
Q: Looking at the development of sport in the country at the moment what do think needs to be done to continue producing quality players?
A: We need to look after the athletes. If we identify talent, let us help it to grow, and support it with all it needs. I do not think we still need to send athletes to High Performance Centres; we can do it here at home. We do have qualified coaches and most of them are willing to work with athletes. I think if they get the support they will take us far.
Q: You were once a sport administrator which positions did you hold during that time? A: Vice president Technical at Botswana Athletics Association.
Q: Apart from sport what do you do?
A: I work at the University of Botswana as a sports officer, oops! That is still sport.
Q: How do you manage to balance coaching and your everyday job and what keeps you going?
A: It is a bit difficult sometimes, but I usually coach after hours and sometimes even during the weekends. To see these young athletes happy and running well keeps me going.
Q: Who has been your role model?
A: Adam Letham - This is the gentleman who persuaded me to join the athletics team while I was still at high school. He was my maths teacher. I saw him volunteering his time to change lives of so many young people/athletes in this country, athletes, like Glody Dube, Gakologalwang Shoes Masheto, Onalenna Baloyi, Gable Garenamotse, Daniel Lagamang, Justice Dipeba and more were all helped by this gentleman. And I think I am following on his foot prints.
Q: Apart from the current batch of athletes who continue to make the country proud at the international competitions, do you think Botswana will be able to produce another set of equally strong athletes?
A: Definitely; there is a lot of talent in this country, as long as we can get our schools back into doing athletics/sports, we will keep producing top athletes. You see all the names I have mentioned above, they were all discovered during BISA! How amazing!
Q: Your advice to fellow coaches and those who would like to become athletics coaches in future?
A: As coach you learn everyday please don’t be afraid to ask other coaches, locally or even internationally. Read books about coaching, you might find something useful in there. Coaching is fun and great! You can help change lives of our young brothers and sisters.
Q: There is always time to relax and forget a little about what you do. How do you to relax?
A: I usually plan a getaway trip during our off-season with my family and we go camping or sometimes we go spend time at our farm.
Q: Any book you are reading at the moment?
A: Not a book at the moment. I just finished reading an article on coaching, (train S-L-O-W-E-R to race faster), I do read these coaching articles a lot now days.
Q: What is it that people do not know about you?
A: That I once held three national records just like the athlete I am coaching at the moment, Isaac Makwala (100m, 200m, and 400m).